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Prompt 3

We missed the bus.

We thought we had it all planned out but the movie ran longer than we thought.  I think it was a triple feature but which movies they were, I couldn’t tell you, that information lost after so many years.  I seem to remember that the theatre always played triple-features and they were somehow related to each other.  Three movies with Brad Pitt or three movies about high school or three movies with the word “Light” in the title.  It didn’t really matter, as long as they had something in common, they would play the three together.

The theatre is called the Mayfair and I’m pretty sure it’s still there.  Every time we go back to Ottawa to visit we take a drive down Bank Street and see it there, looking just as it did all those years ago, at least from the outside.

The listings for the movies used to be printed on coloured pieces of paper and would be tacked up in the common areas in residence.  It was before you could check movie listings online.  It was before smart phones and all of that.  We barely had email back then.  I know, I’m just realizing exactly how old I actually am.  A quick search online confirms that yes, the Mayfair is still there and now it has a website with all of the listings.  Of course it does.  It actually makes me a little sad to think about now.  Like the kids sitting in residence thinking about going to see a show at the Mayfair are missing out on something by just looking it up online.  It really was much better when you all had to gather around the piece of paper tacked to the board in Rez Commons.  Things are always better back in the day.

I don’t remember what the movies were, I don’t remember why we decided to go that particular night, I don’t remember if I had popcorn although, let’s be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a movie and not had popcorn.  I vaguely remember who I went with, not because I have a specific memory of it, but more because I spent almost every minute of my first year of university with the same group of people so I will assume we were at the movie together: my roommate and the two girls who lived next door to us.  An unlikely foursome brought together from four different cities in four different provinces.  About as far apart as four people could be, brought as close together as four people could be.  It was one of those amazing phenomenons whereby had we met under any other circumstances we probably wouldn’t have been friends but we were thrown together, all new to a  city, new to the idea of university, new to just about everything and we bonded quickly, tightly and for eight months we did almost everything together.  Like going to the movies that night.

The Mayfair is technically close enough to the university to walk to, and in the warmer weather we usually did walk, but in Ottawa in the winter, you don’t walk anywhere.  We took the bus, the good old #7 bus that took us pretty much anywhere we wanted to go and then brought us home again when we were done.  Except when we forget to double-check the schedule and we missed the last bus.

I don’t remember the circumstances surrounding realizing we missed the bus or making the heart-wrenching decision that we were going to have to hoof it on foot, but I do remember the cold.

I have never been that cold in my life.  Within three minutes of starting out on our way, I couldn’t feel my thighs, so cold was the wind biting into my jeans.  We tried to talk to take our minds off the cold but our teeth were chattering so hard that soon talking became impossible so we just kept making noises, any kind of noises to keep our lips moving so they didn’t freeze in place.  Having spent the first 17 years of my life in a much more moderate climate I had never felt this kind of cold before.  People warned me, tried to prepare me for what I was going to experience, but until that night I had no idea.

We walked as fast as we possibly could, counting the blocks as we passed by them.  We reached the dingy pizza place that marked the halfway point and kept on walking.  My feet were now frozen and it was like dragging two blocks along behind me.  Why had we decide to go to a movie anyway?  Who’s idea was this?  Next time anyone suggests going outside in the winter I’m going to say ‘no way’ and stay inside where it’s warm!

The funny thing is though, when I think back to that night and the bone-jarring cold, the other most distinct memory I have is how much fun it was.  It was an adventure.  I was there with the three people who had, in such a short time, become my whole world and we were having the time of our lives.  That year is still one of the best I have ever had and that night was just one adventure in a year filled with so many new experiences that I can’t even remember all of them.

But I will never forget missing that bus, and walking home in the cold, so cold that I honestly thought we weren’t going to make it, and yet also feeling so lit up inside.  Like suddenly realizing I was exactly where I was supposed to be, becoming the person I was always supposed to become.

Maybe missing the bus wasn’t so bad after all.

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I sat alone, in front of the tv, with tears streaming down my face.

I tell you – the show “Parenthood” does it to me every week. This week I was actually watching last week’s episode. The blissful convenience of the PVR allows me to become hopelessly behind in my tv watching, even when it’s only the second week of the new fall schedule.

It was the end of the episode and Hattie (teenage daughter) stood in line at the airport, waiting to get on a plane to head off to college. In the span of 10 seconds the expression on her face went from excited, independent young woman to scared, tearful little girl and she ran back to her parents for one more hug, one more goodbye.

Sitting on my couch, watching, my face did pretty much the same thing. Because it struck me immediately that I had been that girl. A little more than 17 years ago, I was that girl, standing in almost that exact same position, doing that exact same thing.

I spent much of my teenage years dreaming of that moment, of the time I would get out on my own, start fresh, begin a new adventure. I had wished, hoped, imagined, planned, never so much as a single doubt crossing my mind.

Until it was time to say goodbye.

In that instant I went from a confident 17 year-old to a frightened child. I wanted to hold on to my parents and tell them not to go. I wanted to scream at them to not leave me there alone and ask how I was supposed to do this on my own.

No matter that I was the one who had chosen this, begged for this. None of that mattered anymore. I wanted to take everything we had just unpacked in my little dorm room and put it back in my suitcases so we could fly back home, back to everything that was familiar and easy. Back to my room, my friends, my life.

But we didn’t do that. Instead we hugged for a few more minutes while my mom and I wiped the tears from each other’s cheeks and my dad nervously jingled the keys from the rental car in his hand.

Then we each turned away, knowing that like so many things in life, you just have to tear off the band-aid and let it hurt really bad for a few minutes, and then it will slowly feel better.

All of that flashed before me as I sat on the couch and watched a similar scene play out on the tv. All of that and the fact that in 10 short years, my daughter will be old enough to head off to university on her own. A long time, sure, but considering that the past 17 years have passed, seemingly, in the blink of any eye, really not that long at all.

And then it occurred to me that in the not too distant future, I will probably have to live through that whole scene again.

Only next time I will not be that girl.

Next time I will be that woman, that mother. I will not be the one going, but instead will be the one letting go.

And I cried a little more.

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